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Funds offer relief for Gresham area inns hard hit by coronivirus restrictions

COURTESY PHOTO: NIK LANUS FOR UNSPLASH - Hotel tax funds $345,000 in grants for 22 Gresham area motels and hotels to get them through the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic have devastated the hotel industry as both business travelers and tourists stay home.

East Multnomah County hotels, however, are getting a little relief in the form of $345,000 in grants.

"Our tourism sector has been devastated, with hotels experiencing approximately an 80% decrease in revenue since the beginning of this pandemic," Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann said in the announcement of the grants.

The 22 hotels receiving funds, all located east of 148th Avenue in East Multnomah County, got the money based on the number of rooms, so that distribution would be equitable, the county explained.

The biggest grants, of $23,943, went to Extended Stay America, 17777 N.E. Sacramento St., Portland; Motel-6, 1610 N.W. Frontage Road, Troutdale; and McMenamins Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale.

The smallest grants, amounting to $4,789, went to Bridal Veil Lodge, 46650 Historic Columbia River Highway, Corbett, and the Golden Knight Motel, 750 Powell Blvd., Gresham.

"It is critical to support the hospitality industry so that when the economy does recover, people will once again be able to enjoy the beauty of East County. We are the gateway to the majestic Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls, which are two of our largest tourist destinations." Stegmann said.

Hotels have been hit hard. The last week in May, for example, hotel occupancy rates were down double digits all over Oregon. They were off 65% in Portland and 49% in the Columbia River Gorge area, according to Travel Oregon.

The East Multnomah County Visitor Development Fund is distributing $344,774. Funding for the grants came from the Transient Lodging Tax and Vehicle Rental Tax, known as the hotel/motel tax. Money from the taxes was designed to be used to attract visitors to Multnomah County and are restricted to tourism-only activities.

The East County Visitors Development Fund is requesting grant recipients use these funds to keep their establishments open by using the funds in several ways. They can use the grants to retain and support employees. They can also use the funds for expenses such as mortgages and property taxes, utilities, insurance or advertising and marketing.

The East County group is a subcommittee of the Visitor Development Fund and is overseen by Stegmann, Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick and local business owner Jatin Patel. The Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce and a representative from McMenamins Inc. provided insight to the group.  

"Local hoteliers help us share the charm and majesty of East Multnomah County with visitors from all over the country and even world," said Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick in the announcement.

"The Visitors Development Fund continues to be an unprecedented public/private partnership. Now is a timely and crucial moment to offer these grants. I am proud we have found a way to help ensure locally-owned hotels can weather this unexpected economic impact."

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